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While much of the information regarding COVID has changed since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have learned more about it and are sharing new information nearly everyday. Experts now suspect the virus can also be spread via aerosols when someone sneezes or coughs. During sneezing or coughing, particles can get in the air and be inhaled. COVID-19 spreads through viral droplets from direct exposure to a cough or sneeze of an infected person and prolonged contact with an infected person. Hence, wearing a mask is important not only to protect yourself but also to protect others.

Studies show that masks help prevent you from transmitting coronavirus pathogens to those around you. This is pivotal due to the fact that one can be contagious before they start showing up the symptoms and even when they are fully asymptomatic and never come down with fully developed symptoms.

As temperatures and levels of frustration among the people continue to rise during the pandemic, wearing face masks has become a trending topic of discussion worldwide. Masks may not a very comfortable thing in the world, especially during the summertime, nonetheless, they are essential right now to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. While the governments globally recommend face masks for most people, they do note a few exceptions, stating that non-medical masks or cloth face coverings may not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infective respiratory droplets, however.

Face Masks Versus Face Shields- Dilemma

Many recommend face shields over face masks (or vice versa), and there are no conclusive studies demonstrating one choice is better than the other for COVID-19 prevention. However, many physicians talk about the efficacy of shields as an option for protection. Let us check the pros and cons of using -face masks and face shields.

FACE MASKS- Advantages

1. Health Canada, CDC, WHO and most doctors endorse masks as a preferred line of defense as it offers a better way of preventing droplets from leaving the mouth or nose of an infected person.

2. Since main portal of entry for the virus is the nose, making sure the nose is fully covered due to face mask helps to create a greater barrier for entry.

4. Some masks also include a pocket to accommodate a paper towel or disposable coffee filter, for increased benefit.

5. Masks can maintain their shape after washing and drying and can be changed easily if get damp or dirty.

FACE MASKS-disadvantages

1. Face masks are only effective if used properly.

2. Masks are not always easy to breathe in. Wearing a mask may not be possible for everyone.

3. Masks are often not recommended for people with some medical conditions such as people with respiratory issues, often required not to risk their health by wearing a mask.

4. Wearing a mask is not advisable while exercising.

5. One of the biggest problems with masks is that they only cover the nose and mouth, missing the other major entry point for the virus such as eyes.

6. If you sweat or exercise in the mask, it may lead to potential skin conditions.

7. Masks can also cause skin issues such as facial breakouts, acne, rosacea, perioral dermatitis, and irritant contact dermatitis.

8. Many children may resist wearing mask or pull off their masks.

FACE SHIELD-advantages

1. Recent studies have shown that face shields may significantly reduce amount of inhalation exposure to influenza virus, which, like COVID-19, is a droplet-spread respiratory virus.

2. Some simulation studies have found that face shields reduce immediate viral exposure by 96 % when worn by a health care worker within 18 inches (45 cm) of a cough.

3. For those who cannot tolerate a mask, a face shield could be better.

4. Children may be unable to exercise caution when touching surfaces or avoid touching their faces the way adults can, so a face shield designed specifically for kids can help with that issue.

5. Wearing a mask is not advisable while exercising. But face shield is a safer alternative here.

6. Face Shield could be a better choice in cases like autism or seizure disorders where a person may be more sensitive than others to touch and texture and don’t like the nose and mouth covered by mask.

7. With face shields, the eyes are covered, preventing virus absorption through aerosols and hand-to-eye contact. So, a face shield may be a good idea for a person who often rubs eyes.

8. Shields don't aggravate the skin.

9. Face shields are easier to clean than cloth masks because of their hard surface. shields can be cleaned after each use with soap and water. Still, the process is less time-consuming.

10. Face shields are more breathable than cloth masks, one can quickly move without feeling suffocated while wearing shields can help you avoid strange tan lines from masks.

11. Face shields can also be a good choice for those with respiratory issues, and people who are engaged in high-intensity activities, like running, may not be able to wear a cloth face covering if it causes difficulty breathing.

FACE SHIELD-disadvantages

1. The problem with a shield is that droplets can still escape from the side and bottom.

2. It is claimed that a mask can offer better protection than a face shield in certain conditions as masks have more containment of the mouth and nose than shields.

3. Face shields may be a little expensive than a normal face mask.

4. Availability and ease in storage are another issues in certain conditions for face shields.

Wearing both a face mask and a face shield?

Wearing a face shield with a mask is the most advantageous form of protection, per se. While wearing both a mask and shield provides the maximum amount of protection, most people don't need to go that far. However, there are some exceptions. It has been observed that face shields substantially reduce the short-term exposure for health care workers to large infectious aerosolized particles. Hence, face shields help provide a useful adjunct to respiratory protection for workers taking care of patients with respiratory infections or for those working in LTC.

Its always important to keep in mind that if you aren't a health care worker but staying with someone who is immunocompromised or who has tested positive for COVID-19, then you must take additional precautions along with wearing face mask and/or face shields appropriate to the severity of the condition. Also remember that homemade masks are not medical devices and are not regulated like medical masks and respirators. Some commercially available masks have exhalation valves making the mask more breathable for the wearer, but these valves may allow infectious respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask.

Whatever you decide to wear to prevent infection when you are out and about, keep in mind that staying safe from COVID-19 means putting in place multiple safeguards, including thorough handwashing and physical distancing. Proper handwashing not only reduces the chances of spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), it can prevent the spread of viral infections like common cold and flu. Handwashing also reduces the risk of getting other easily spread infections such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). The other important safety measure is social distancing, not to forget. The virus is in these droplets, and they don't go very far — they fall to the ground. Hence, physical distancing by 6 feet away from others is the most important thing that we can all do.

Safety First- Be careful, Be aware and Be safe.

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